CHICAGO, Nov. 22, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Offering voters 30 years of public service advocating for their needs in neighborhoods across the city and in Springfield, Dr. Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins Monday formally entered the race for Mayor of Chicago by filing over 40,000 signatures backing her candidacy.
That resounding statement of support for an unheralded candidate underscored Watkins' emergence as a viable grassroots alternative to the career politicians vying for the helm of City Hall. Watkins has spent three decades working as a community organizer and civic leader, building coalitions across ethnic, religious and partisan lines to generate jobs in distressed neighborhoods, reduce violence on the city's streets and improve education in its schools.
"I've always been motivated to work for fairness and dignity among all people. I feel like we all have a responsibility to help – and if we don't, we can become a part of the problem," Van Pelt-Watkins said. "This is pivotal time for all of us in Chicago. We are facing serious challenges, and everywhere I go people say they want a city that is more responsive to their needs. This campaign is about taking action to help ensure that Chicagoans have a voice in their government – a government that reflects the ideas, visions, and the goals of the residents."
From 1995 until she launched her campaign for Mayor, Van Pelt-Watkins was CEO of Target Area Development Corp., a social justice organization headquartered in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. During that time she led the redevelopment planning process for the 79th Street commercial corridor in Auburn Gresham, which generated $52 million in public and private investments.
- Raised millions of dollars to expand affordable housing for families in two low-income neighborhoods.
- Served as a founding board member of Advance Illinois, a bi-partisan education reform group, along with former Governor Jim Edgar, Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley.
- Founded the Developing Justice Coalition, which shepherded landmark legislation through the General Assembly removing barriers that prevent non-violent ex-offenders from obtaining employment and regaining stability.
- Pioneering member of the Grow Your Own Teachers Program, an initiative that works in concert with eight universities to create a pipeline for people of color to enter the teaching profession.
The 53-year-old Van Pelt-Watkins has lived in Chicago her entire life. Born on the near North Side and raised in Cabrini Green. She watched her mother raise her family on a small income while putting herself through college. She began her professional life as a steelworker on the South Side, where she was a union steward. She subsequently earned her bachelor's, master's while raising her two children. She lost her 17-year-old daughter in a plane crash, but recovered to complete her PhD in Management of Nonprofit Agencies and has spent decades counseling other families coping with adversity as the administrator of the 500-member Ambassadors of Christ Church in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood. She currently resides in East Garfield Park.
"I believe that as a city, we can meet the challenges before us, because I've seen it happen as a collaborator and organizer for 30 years," Van Pelt-Watkins said. "This is a great city and our greatest asset is the people."
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SOURCE Watkins for Mayor